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This Indigenous Man Says Virgin Australia Allowed A Passenger To Move Seats Rather Than Sit Next To Him

"I felt like I was not good enough to sit next to her."

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Aboriginal man Kevin Whyman, 42, claims that a non-Indigenous passenger refused to sit next to him on a Virgin Australia flight because of his skin colour and was moved to another seat, leaving him "humiliated. belittled and discriminated against".

"I had a young lady, a non-Aboriginal young lady, sit next to me and she buckled herself in and she turned herself towards me and she looked me up and down and got up pretty much straight away and went to the back of the plane," Whyman tells BuzzFeed News. "I turned around and I could see her talking to the flight attendant asking to be relocated and he was looking at his log where people sit to find another seat for her".The incident allegedly took place yesterday on flight VA1175 from Albury to Sydney and Whyman says he immediately knew it was because of his Aboriginality. "I was dressed nice, I didn’t have any odour or anything and it made me feel belittled and discriminated against," Whyman says.
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"I had a young lady, a non-Aboriginal young lady, sit next to me and she buckled herself in and she turned herself towards me and she looked me up and down and got up pretty much straight away and went to the back of the plane," Whyman tells BuzzFeed News.

"I turned around and I could see her talking to the flight attendant asking to be relocated and he was looking at his log where people sit to find another seat for her".

The incident allegedly took place yesterday on flight VA1175 from Albury to Sydney and Whyman says he immediately knew it was because of his Aboriginality.

"I was dressed nice, I didn’t have any odour or anything and it made me feel belittled and discriminated against," Whyman says.

Whyman says his fears were confirmed when he told the flight attendants that he had felt discriminated against.

"I asked the stewardess nicely, 'what’s the deal here? This lady was sitting here one minute and then you’ve actually moved her. I feel like I have been discriminated against, aren’t I good enough to sit next to?'"

Whyman says one of the flight attendants rolled his eyes at the complaint and told him not to "take it personally" and that she had been moved for even weight distribution throughout the plane, despite her requesting the move.

"Before we were landing I went to the restroom and whilst I was waiting the two stewardess' started talking to me about it and I said, "well it was wrong of you to do that because how do you think I feel?," and he [one of the flight attendants] said don’t take it personally," Whyman says.

"This young flight attendant pretty much rolled his eyes a couple of times while I was speaking and pretty much had no interest in what I saying. I just felt uncomfortable, I felt like I wasn’t meant to be on the plane".

After landing in Sydney, Whyman went to the Virgin Australia desk to make a complaint, he then took to Facebook to vent his disappointment saying, "Can't believe I got racially discriminated against by these two people on my Virgin flight VA1175 this morning".

One of Whyman's friends sent a complaint to Virgin as well and was told that they are "looking into the claims" and "liaising directly with all parties involved".

The passenger was moved two rows in front of Whyman and his non-Indigenous friend who had witnessed the incident.

"She sat two seats in front of me with another white person, I felt like I was not good enough to sit next to her," Whyman says. Virgin Australia says it has investigated the incident and told Whyman the woman's complaint was that the middle armrest was unable to be lowered, something Whyman disputes. This conflicts with the original excuse given to Whyman by the flight attendant that the woman was moved for even weight distribution in the plane."Due to the privacy of our guests and crew we are unable to provide specific details, however we can confirm that our guest requested to change seats, which is not unusual, and that this request was not racially motivated. Virgin Australia does not tolerate any form of discrimination," Virgin Australia said in a statement. "You have to call out racism. I’m not dumb, I know when somebodies uncomfortable with my skin colour. I’m a big dark fella with tattoos, but no deserves to be judged by these looks".Whyman is now looking at taking legal action and has hired a solicitor to look into the case.
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"She sat two seats in front of me with another white person, I felt like I was not good enough to sit next to her," Whyman says.

Virgin Australia says it has investigated the incident and told Whyman the woman's complaint was that the middle armrest was unable to be lowered, something Whyman disputes.

This conflicts with the original excuse given to Whyman by the flight attendant that the woman was moved for even weight distribution in the plane.

"Due to the privacy of our guests and crew we are unable to provide specific details, however we can confirm that our guest requested to change seats, which is not unusual, and that this request was not racially motivated. Virgin Australia does not tolerate any form of discrimination," Virgin Australia said in a statement.

"You have to call out racism. I’m not dumb, I know when somebodies uncomfortable with my skin colour. I’m a big dark fella with tattoos, but no deserves to be judged by these looks".

Whyman is now looking at taking legal action and has hired a solicitor to look into the case.

Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at arielle.benedek+AC@buzzfeed.com.

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